It’s doubtful, after the Browns waived him last May, that Thaddeus Lewis, even in his most optimistic moments, could have envisioned this scenario.
Oh, he was only unemployed less than a week when the Lions signed him. Then, in late August, Detroit dealt him to Buffalo for linebacker Chris White, who didn’t even make the roster.
That trade merely made Lewis No. 4 on the Bills’ quarterback depth chart.
But, five days later, Kevin Kolb, Buffalo’s only veteran QB, was put on season-ending injured reserve with concussion-like symptoms.
However, it seemingly was meaningless to Lewis as the Bills’ coaching staff opted for only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, both rookies, first-round draft pick EJ Manuel and undrafted Jeff Tuel. The 25-year-old former Duke star stashed on the practice squad.
And when Manuel went down with a sprained knee in a loss at Cleveland in Game 5, Buffalo’s front office frantically, and unsuccessfully, went looking for an unemployed veteran QB, preferably one who could run the Bills’ uptempo, read-option-type offense.
Tuel was not only inexperienced, but he also looked terrible against the Browns, a drop-back passer in an attack requiring a mobile QB.
Thus, the job fell to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Lewis, almost by default.
He actually already had an NFL start, getting the call from the quarterback-desperate Browns in last season’s finale at Pittsburgh, where he put up respectable numbers in a 24-10 loss to the Steelers.
But Lewis easily outdid those last Sunday in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals at “The Ralph,” hitting 19-of-32 passes for 216 yards with two TDs, no interceptions and a solid 100.5 passer rating.
Most impressively, those touchdown tosses came in the final 10 minutes of regulation, tying the game at 24-24.
THAT performance earned him another start Sunday in Miami, and as many as four more after that, as coach Doug Marrone announced it will be “four to six weeks” before Manuel returns to practice.
That means, besides the Dolphins, games at New Orleans and Pittsburgh and home against the Chiefs and Jets could well be in Lewis’ hands.
And that’s fine by Marrone.
“Credit to him because he always has been preparing for this,” Buffalo’s first-year coach said. “He’s always prepared himself for something like this to happen. That’s what you have to do and that’s what it means to be a pro. He’s done a great job.
“A lot of people, if (they) didn’t know Thad Lewis, were surprised maybe by that performance (against Cincinnati). (But) I don’t think anyone on the team was really surprised about the way he went out there (and) went about his business. That’s who he was since he came on board.”
OPPORTUNITY No. 2 comes Sunday, and it’s special.
It’s a homecoming game of sorts, as Lewis went to high school at Miami Lakes in Hialeah and will go against the team he loved as a boy, though he only went to one game in person.
“The Dolphins (were) always (my) team, but when you’re a kid and your parents can’t afford to take you to a game, it’s on TV every week so you don’t miss it,” he said.
Nor will his family and some friends on Sunday, as Lewis has already bought 15 tickets and counting.
He particularly enjoyed watching the Dolphins against the Bills during their Super Bowl days when Dan Marino dueled with Jim Kelly.
“I definitely remember those,” he said. “Growing up in Miami, watching ‘Dan the Man’ — that was his nickname where I was from. You loved watching them playing (especially) when (the Bills came) down to sunny Miami. Those were the great old days.”
BUT NOW, Lewis gets to start against the team he so closely followed as a youth.
“You’re just excited every week you get to play football in general, it means a lot playing in the NFL, period,” he said. “You dream as a child to get to this level, but to be starting is a dream come true. You take it in stride and try to make the best of the situation.
“It’s just extra to get to go home and play in front of people you know and people that know you. It’s a great opportunity.”
One of which he hopes to take advantage.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)